benefits of NIO's development of battery swapping stations

Benefits of NIO’s development of battery swapping stations

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Not long ago at NIO DAY, NIO announced that it would equip each of its third-generation battery swap stations with dual Orin-X chips, sparking curiosity in the industry.

According to the announced information, a single Orin-X chip can reach the industry’s top 254TOPS (trillion times per second), which means the total computing power of NIO’s third-generation battery swap stations will be as high as 504TOPS. The cost of a single Orin-X chip is currently at $400, and dual Orin-X chips means about RMB 5400.

A more intuitive intelligence

According to NIO itself, the reason for adding the chips to the power exchange station is not difficult to understand. In the third generation of battery swap stations, NIO added not only two Orin-X chips, but also two LIDARs, thus realizing the function of summoning battery swap and automatic parking. In fact, NIO introduced the auto-parking function in the second generation battery swap station. That is, after the owner parks the vehicle in a designated starting area next to the exchange station, the vehicle can automatically perform ev battery swapping. The whole process does not require the vehicle owner to get out of the car or the staff to participate.

From the data, as of the end of last year, the number of battery swap stations totaled 1,300, and the average number of swap stations in China is about 5,000 times per day. That is, NIO’s current ratio of cars to swap stations is about 223:1, and each station replaces batteries on average 4 times a day.

The number of battery swap stations

Power exchange brings the deal

But NIO may not need to add a chip to a power exchange station just for the sake of a better experience, market participants speculate that there seems to be a more far-reaching layout behind it – power trading. At the NIO POWER DAY 2022, the head of NIO said that “power exchange” has always been the biggest label for Azure’s external services.

However, the current power exchange is still in the layout stage, and in the short term, it is an investment to gain market attention, and not intended to make money. However, in response to the above question, the person in charge also gave a public response, “electricity exchange, as long as the brand NIO exists, will always do it”.

But the current operation of the power exchange station, in the battery market with high prices of raw materials for batteries can not earn money; subject to the grid unified control of charging costs also difficult to contribute to profits.

However, according to NIO’s plan, with the technology already developed, it can be connected to the smart grid and participate in power trading to help different regions to dynamically regulate the grid and gain revenue from it.

In its year-end report, NIO pointed out that in 2022, a total of 196 exchange stations will participate in grid peak and frequency regulation, and another 575 exchange stations will participate in peak charging, raising electricity consumption from 12% to 20% during valley hours. NIO has personally verified the feasibility of grid interaction with practical actions.

Along with Grid Interaction, NIO’s intelligent operation and maintenance system was also revealed last year for switching stations. The system is essentially an intelligent IoT system that connects all of NIO’s battery swap vs charging. In terms of functionality, in addition to training new employees and remote operation and maintenance, it is also capable of detecting the operational data of the swap stations using deep learning algorithms.

According to NIO, more than 100 swap stations have been left unattended last year. Perhaps it is under the rising demand for intelligent power exchange that the head of NIO laughed at the 2022 NIO DAY and said, “In the future, the power exchange stations will also have to fight arithmetic.” In addition, experts believe that “NIO is currently adding a large computing chip to the exchange station, possibly to do edge data processing, in addition to the site’s own operations, and even includes the environmental awareness around the exchange station.

demand for intelligent power exchange

However, experts also point out that adding a high-calculus chip for the swap station does not mean that this is the only solution for the smart upgrade of the swap station.

Especially in the industry has not yet shown the overall trend before. To the development of new energy itself, the state subsidy is the biggest driving force to promote the development of technology, whether it is the year of photovoltaic or today’s hydrogen energy, the early big investment is the premise of the scale effect, power exchange and power trading to really achieve the final profit on, but also rely on the support of the state and the whole industry to go hand in hand.

In 2013, Tesla, which was a big advocate of power exchange, gave up the model soon after the launch of its own power exchange technology.

The reason behind this is precisely because of the failure to get more government support for the promotion of switching stations in California, USA. Burning money may not be terrible, but Tesla CEO Musk is worried that behind the investment is a distant realization of the window period.

Must we stick to the power exchange model?

According to the current layout, power exchange is not the only energy replenishment system of Azera. Along with the launch of the new power exchange station, Azera has also launched 500kW super fast charging piles to further improve its construction in terms of energy replenishment.

However, NIO’s power exchange model has been shaped as an important component of the brand’s image and value. Whether profitable or not, the power exchange stations have had to evolve along with the increase in NIO sales.

What is certain is that the user experience is destined to be significantly improved on NIO’s constantly iterating power exchange stations. In addition to the advantage of faster power exchange itself compared to charging, the complex power exchange scenario after the user base is improved will also be fully optimized after the overall intelligence of the power exchange system is improved.

The advantage of faster power exchange

But for NIO, in the absence of self-research battery premise, larger battery capacity of the power exchange station will undoubtedly further increase the cost of building stations. At the same time, with the introduction of new brands, the improvement of the battery type reserve and adaptation technology in the power exchange station will also become a new issue for NIO.

Expanding to the entire power exchange circuit, the difficulties NIO encountered in the power exchange route are also common obstacles faced by other power exchange companies in the future development.

Will brand new switching stations affect the frequency of use of established switching stations? How will the density and layout of the stations be distributed for the national market? Perhaps these are the questions that need to be pondered by companies with power exchange technology in hand before ushering in the dividend period.

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